Thursday, July 2, 2009

Transplant Rejection...or my misadventures in La La Land.

Transplant rejection occurs when a transplanted organ or tissue is not accepted by the body of the transplant recipient. This is explained by the concept that the immune system of the recipient attacks the transplanted organ or tissue. This is expected to happen, because the immune system's purpose is to distinguish foreign material within the body and attempt to destroy it. - Wikipedia

In the early 90's, Hollywood staged an unofficial boycott of NY by just deciding not to produce anything here. Unofficially, the reason they weren't shooting a damned thing in NY was because some of the Unions' contracts had expired and the studios wanted concessions. Since they could simply claim they hadn't greenlit any pictures for NY, there wasn't anything official going on like a strike or a lockout...just no work to be had. I wasn't in a Union at the time, but if there are no pictures being produced somewhere, there's no work for anyone.

In early 1991, I decided I'd pick up and move to L.A. I was young, eager and had a fairly respectable resume to show around. It turned out not to be a perfect match. If I were the diplomatic sort, I'd probably say, "L.A., it wasn't you; it was me", but no..."It was you, L.A."

Sign #1: When the weather tells you you're going the wrong direction...listen.

In early March, I had a moving company pack up my apartment in NY with instructions to put it into storage in L.A. until I'd found an apartment there. I intended to drive cross country in my trusty Honda CRX and stay with my brother in Orange County while looking. While driving across Oklahoma, I encountered a windstorm, head-on. For about two hours, I couldn't get the car to go faster than 35mph in spite of having the gas pedal floored. The west coast was pushing me east long before I got within spitting distance.

Sign #2: When the world tells you "Get the fuck out of here" within hours of your arrival...listen.

I arrived at my brother's house on a Saturday afternoon and quickly found myself in the backyard drinking beer, alternating between the pool and the jacuzzi and waiting for something delicious to come off the grill. It seemed like an auspicious welcome.

The phone rang about 3 hours after I got there and it was for me; I'd left the number on my answering machine in NY. The call was from someone I knew wanting to know if I could be in South Carolina on Monday to start work on a movie. betcha! On the one hand, finding work that quickly was excellent; on the other hand, was someone telling me I didn't belong in L.A.?

Sign #3: You have trouble with the whole system of finding somewhere to live in your newly chosen home.

So I spent a few months working in South Carolina and then went back to L.A. and immediately set forth looking for an apartment. Things are different in L.A. If you want a new apartment in NY, you go to a realtor who shows you a bunch of places and then you pick one and you pay the new landlord a few months of rent up front and you pay the realtor a fee equivalent to a month or so of rent and then you're broke but you have somewhere to live and everyone is happy. In L.A., realtors don't handle rentals. You drive around looking for signs and you call people and they make an appointment to show you the apartment a week from Tuesday and it's rented to someone else long before you get a chance to see it. Or maybe you do get in to see it promptly and you decide you like it but you didn't know you were supposed to bring a briefcase full of cash, so you run to the bank, but by the time you get back, someone else who knew about the briefcase full of cash beat you to the punch and already has a moving truck backed up to your apartment.

Sign #4: Your new home scares the living shit out of you and calls you a pansy all at the same time.

Eventually, I found an apartment and got all of my crap moved in. One night, I was awakened at around 2:00 a.m. because the whole place was shaking. OMG IT'S A FUCKING EARTHQUAKE! The place shook for a little while and there wasn't any damage, but I had more than a little trouble getting back to sleep. The next morning, I expected to see big headlines on the front page of the paper -- nope, nothing. On the 5th page of the local section, there was a little note about a "tremor" that had hit with its epicenter in Culver City. The earthquake that scared the crap out of me was, evidently, an utter non-event by Angelino standards.

Sign #5: The cops almost arrest you and won't even tell you why.

I made a point of not subscribing to the paper when I moved to L.A. I figured I could walk three blocks every morning and buy a copy at the 7-11 down the street. One morning, I'm walking to get my paper and a cop on a bicycle flies up to me, jumps off his bike and grabs me. Next thing I know, I'm spread-eagled on a lawn and I'm in cuffs and this cop is screaming at me in Spanish. I keep trying to tell him I don't speak any Spanish and he does that thing where he speaks louder and slower -- in Spanish-- and thinks I'll figure out what he's saying. (I honestly don't know why it didn't register on him that I was speaking perfectly fluent English back at him.) Anyway, while all this is going on, a couple of police cars show up and now there are 5 cops there and I'm in cuffs and nobody is saying a word to me in English and I hear one of the cops talking on his radio. Apparently, they've got the guy they were really looking for a couple of blocks away.

At this point, they uncuffed me and...they left. Nobody said a word to me...they just left.

During my 2.5 years living in L.A., I worked in South Carolina, Minnesota, Maine, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York and in Oakland, CA. I worked five days in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Two days were as a P.A. on a reshoot for The Cutting Edge. Three days were scouting locations for a music video (for some band I've completely forgotten). The assignment was to find an Italian villa where the company could do an interior wet-down. That was kind of cool. I found a vaguely Meditteranian house that had quake damage and was scheduled to be torn down. It's actually a lot of fun to shoot in a house where nobody cares that you're blasting fire hoses at the walls or dumping 55-gallon barrels of water down an ornate staircase. I have a distinct memory of having a grip walk up to me about 6 hours into the day (a day filled with wanton destruction of a gorgeous house), who wanted to know if it would be OK for him to nail a pigeon to the wall. I suggested he use a sledge hammer.

I never did get the hang of living in L.A. Things were just different there. If you wanted to go to a decent restaurant, you had to make a reservation a week beforehand. In NY, if someone doesn't have time to bother with you, they'll just tell you to fuck off -- to your face. In L.A., if someone doesn't have time to bother with you, they'll give you an appointment three weeks from tomorrow -- and then they won't be there when you show up. In L.A. if you sat in the smoking section of an empty restaurant (remember smoking sections?), the next couple to walk in will request the table next to yours and then bitch at you for smoking. One of the only ways to meet people in L.A. is to hit them with your car. If you encounter another person while walking down a sidewalk, (yeah, I know, it's unlikely but it happens), the other person will have no concept of walking anywhere but on the dead center of the sidewalk, forcing you to step aside. Another thing--and technically this isn't really L.A.'s fault,-- but I had spent my entire life within 20 miles of an ocean. And like the moon pulls the tides, I had a sort of proprioception that told me I was heading north when the ocean was on my right. That great sense of direction doesn't work in L.A.

Eventually, I decided I was never going to fall in love with L.A. and if people wanted me to take airplanes to get to work, there were perfectly good airports in NY. When I had moved to L.A. I had a stoop sale (that's what we call them in NY), and my books sold as quickly as I could put them out...75¢ per paperback, $2.00 per hardcover. I had a yard sale when I was preparing to leave L.A. I couldn't get rid of books even at the end of the day when I put up a sign saying, "Free -- Take Them". I sold a broken T.V. (with a sign that said, "Does Not Work") for $30.00.


Jeri said...

Too hilarious. California has never appealed... Bryan's HQ was in Santa Ana and we could always have gotten transferred there, but avoided the idea like the plague.

Todd Wheeler said...


neurondoc said...

TheHusband and I have considered on and off moving to LA, because we have family there. But when push came to shove, we realized that we'd be trading expensive real estate, horrible traffic, swampy weather, and uptight people for beyond-expensive real estate, insanely horrible traffic, earthquakes, and plastic people (though the weather is nicer there).

I like NYC better, and DC has grown opn me...

Unknown said...

I remember those days, probably one of the few. Thanks for taking me back.

Carol Elaine said...


I have nothing to say to you, Mr. Gendizer, except, "Good day!"

Sir, I said, "Good day!"

(Except, yeah, the cops can be kind of dicks out here.)

Nathan said...


If memory serves, somebody played a big part in talking me into moving in the first place...and then abandoned me by cheerfully failing to leave NY.


And Carol Elaine,

Enjoy your left coast. You're welcome to it.

Michael Taylor said...

There's no argument that at its worst, LA can be a hideous, soul-crushing pit of despair. But at it's best (like right now, with postcard weather, clear skies, and very low humidity), it's a nice place to be. Like anywhere else, you have to know where to go, what to do, and when to do it -- and certain places (like Santa Ana) really should be "avoided like the plague."

Good call, Jeri.

But different strokes work for different folks -- we like what we like -- and in the end, we make the best with what we've got. I'm glad you're happy in NY, Nathan, and if I manage to survive the smog, traffic, cops, earthquakes, busted budget, Republican governors, and random gunfire all the way to retirement, I too will put LA in my rear view mirror without looking back.

For all it's faults (pun intended), LA has been pretty good to me over the years. Yes, there are legions of plastic people out here, but every part of our country has its share of clueless morons, and I doubt the percentage is any higher in LA than anywhere else.

Still, if I'd been treated as rudely as you were, I might have left a long time ago.

Happy 4th to you all.